Beyond Words

Words, Wit and Wisdom for Today's Style and Decision Makers

Just Breathe May 31, 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 5:13 pm


Breathe. One word. A word that usually signifies life but currently represents just the opposite as cities across our nation burn. It’s the word George Floyd uttered again and again as a Minneapolis police officer killed him. I don’t know all, none of us do, but I do know that as a nation we need to collectively stop the rioting – both in our cities and in our hearts – and take a deep breath.




As God would have it, today we celebrate Pentecost Sunday, the day Jesus was gathered with His disciples when suddenly a violent wind filled the house they were in. They became frightened but Jesus breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” He breathed on them.


Breathe deep.


Often depicted as “tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each one of them,” the Holy Spirit reading presents powerful imagery today as we watch fires destroy cities and businesses; businesses that just started opening back up after COVID-19 closures. It’s an imagery not lost on me and one that speaks volumes.





The Holy Spirit is often thought of as the love part of the Holy Trinity; the love between Father and Son and the love bestowed upon those to share with others. In addition to love, the Holy Spirit works in us through the Fruits of the Holy Spirit and the Gifts of the Holy Spirit; the first being presence of God at work in us and the latter being the “matured fruits” and the Holy Spirit creating in us the good habits, virtues, and deeds for us to possess and demonstrate. Without getting too deep, the opposite consists of the “bitter fruits” such as jealousy, strife, anger, etc.  And yes, these are Biblical, listed by Paul in Galatians.


Since George Lloyd’s tragic death, we have witnessed an array of “bitter fruits” displayed in cities coast-to-coast. Sadly, what started out as rightly deserved peaceful protests of a wrong-doing and long-standing injustice has enfolded into violence-filled riots that do nothing to advance a cause that so desperately needs across-the-board support. Looting, vandalism, and anger do not breathe life into it all. If anything, they deflate cooperation and breathe the life out of it.



Ironically, on that first Pentecost when the disciples “began to speak in other tongues,” the entire group was amazed and wondered how it was that they could all understand each other. You see, the gathering was one of very diverse people; many with their own native languages, customs, and cultures. And yet suddenly, they could miraculously understand each other even though they were different. They were different.


And got along.


If all of this doesn’t take your breath away, you may need to check your pulse.



Check your motives today as well as you watch the news. Then look in the mirror. Are you a builder of harmony and unity or a judger with words and stones? The voices of both the Holy Spirit and George Floyd are powerful yet gentle. Let’s be like them.


Webster defines the verb “breathe” as to draw air into and expel from the lungs; to inhale and exhale. We often say a wine needs to “breathe” in order to develop its flavor and bouquet by exposure to air. We also use the word to express or utter something as when we say “Don’t breathe a word about it.”


George Floyd was denied his right to breathe and we all need to stop not breathing a word about similar wrongs. By imitating the Holy Spirit and instead practicing peace, patience, kindness, goodness, self-control, gentleness, and faithfulness, we can start breathing the flavor and bouquet of love and tolerance into a society so desperately thirsting for them.







Staying Connected in a Disconnected Time May 28, 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 1:18 am

If you know me at all, you know I’m a big fan of author/spiritual mamma/inspirator Susie Davis. I go to her often and today I went to her as I had a 40 minute drive to take my dog to the vet. I scanned through her podcasts for one I hadn’t listened to and found what seemed like the perfect one for these times: “When You Feel Disconnected.” Don’t we all right now? I was all in and pressed play.


In the podcast, Susie interviewed fellow author/spiritual mamma/inspirator Kate Merrick and she had me at hello. Early into the podcast she noted that 41 percent of Americans say they don’t have one friend and yet…we are the most “connected” we’ve ever been. And although the podcast was recorded before the current COVID pandemic, both those statements are so very relevant today.


Think about it: how many of us have been sheltered at home either alone or among family and feeling like we don’t have a friend in the world while at the same time how many of us are connected to tons of social media “friends?”


I’d bet the house that during the past few months we have collectively been on social media or some sort of technology maybe more than ever before. I remember reading a post saying how horrific things would really be if we “ran out of” Wi-Fi. Sad but true, right? But, we’ve been bored in the house and in the house bored so we log-on and “like.” All things Netflix, Tiktok, Instagram and beyond have been our sources of entertainment and distraction. We’ve also needed the internet for work, school, and even exercise so sites like Zoom have boomed. Even my book club has Zoomed and I’ve been getting my weekly doses of much-need yoga on Zoom. Recently before doing our downward dogs and warrior twos, we chatted briefly that yes, we are all sadly addicted to our phones and technology but right now they are the only ways we stay in touch with others. Right now. But how about before Corona and after Corona?



Our 27-year-old daughter was back home with us working from home for two months before leaving this week and I remember her at one point saying she had a headache. We put our heads together and decided it was because she was looking at either her phone or her laptop pretty much nonstop. After putting a slight stop to that, the headaches disappeared. Technology rocks, but it also hurts.


Merrick is the first to get off the social media bandwagon for a number of reasons. She hates that scanning through IG accounts just isn’t healthy for her mindset in that it often left her feeling inadequate, ugly, and out-of-shape. Instead, she chooses to love what God has given her and not pine after what God has given others. Brilliant, right? But she says, we’ve become convinced that social media is the only way to connect with someone because it’s currently the most common way. As a culture, we buy what is being sold and today social media is what’s selling.



These are unique times however and they call for unique measures. Yes, it’s easy to say shy away from social media when things are “normal,” but when stuck inside for days on end it’s tough to not log on and look. If you must, Merrick suggests shunning comparison and unfollow any accounts that make you feel lame. If you feel the need to follow anyone, follow those accounts that inspire you or make you smile. Merrick also recommends “practicing presence” by living in your present moment and life situation. Again, don’t compare and instead listen to her wise words of, “I’ll love what I’m doing a lot more if I’m not aware of what everyone else is doing.” Or where they’re going to. Or what they’re buying. Or who they’re with. Live in your space and time not Facebook’s.


I gotta admit, I do enjoy a little Facebook and Instagram but I try my hardest not to compare, contrast, or compete and if your feed is only photos of you, I’m out. I agree with Merrick in that it can all sometimes make me feel dry and thirsty and wanting. Are we really connecting when we are so anonymous and so arbitrary?


We arbitrarily post the pretty in our lives and let others into the portions of our lives that we choose. They comment and we comment but there is no commitment of actual friendship required. Merrick says social media is like a cheap date: lots of affirmation with not a lot of work. Bingo.


Still, in isolated times like the present, socializing on social media is all we have. But, don’t let these faux communities let you forget your real communities: the groups of your people, or as the doctors on “Grey’s Anatomy” so famously refer to each other: “my person.” These are the persons who bring you casseroles when you’re sick, send cards and flowers for deaths and birthdays, and are your ride or dies whether laughing or crying. These are the connections we should all crave and seek once lockdown has died down.



The first place to start is to maybe check your distractions; especially those I mentioned above as being COVID sanity savers. Do you truly enjoy scrolling through post after post or is doing so simply a distraction. Own that distraction before it owns you and keep in mind that even Jesus had to get away to pray. Jesus was also present to His disciples…a group that BTW was extremely diverse…and spent time with them. As Merrick says, if we are enormously distracted we cannot hear God’s voice. Listen up and slow down.


I somewhat reluctantly realized this just today and owning it hurts my heart. Since our daughter headed back to her home, I’ve found that I’m back to my morning prayer and meditation time. I get away and I pray and read. For some reason, I didn’t do it daily the two months she was here. I was, you got it, distracted and shame on me. A daughter should witness her mom spending every morning in prayer and this mamma failed.



I bet you’ve discovered a sliver of who “your people” are during our current national emergency. I know I have. I’ve learned who has reached out, went out of their way to celebrate me on my birthday, asked if I needed any groceries, and have called or texted again and again. They are who I’ve felt connected to. Truly connected.


In the end, be picky about who and what you spend your time on. Whether we like it or not, all of our days are numbered so why not fill them with some real connections? I’m ready.




Learning As We Go May 13, 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 11:23 pm


I needed a dose of happiness today so I went to the source: Gretchen Rubin, author of “The Happiness Project” and goal-tender of all things deep and happy. Her “Happier” podcast is one of my favorites and the one focusing on “What have you learned about yourself or others recently?” grabbed my attention. During it, she discussed both the practical and profound things we are learning as we meander our way through social-distancing, working at home, and self-isolating.



Two things I’ve learned that jumped right out at me are that I touch my face a lot and that social distancing isn’t that hard or distressing for me. I miss my coworkers and my job but other than that, there’s really not a whole lot I miss about going out. If I miss any “going out,” it’s traveling, meeting friends for coffee or dinner, my yoga class, and the occasional get dressed up and go out nights. The simple things with people I’m most comfortable and happy with. I also miss going casually to the grocery store and not having to worry about anything or wearing a mask and stress-free wandering through Target, a bookstore, gift stores, and boutiques. Just wandering. Not running in to buy essentials or stopping by just to support a small business, but casually browsing. On my time. At my pace.


I like the feeling of being “alone in a crowd” and haven’t really felt cut off from a lot of things. I like the slow life, can easily get lost in a peaceful and safe social place, and as I’ve written a million times before, I’m never bored in my house. Still, it all feels a little different when we are told to do something rather than when we choose to do something, right?  I’ve learned this bothers me.



I’ve never been one to suffer from FOMO (Fear of Missing Out), but I do have a real case of FOGO, Fear of Going Out. I’m so torn. I know we need to go out and get this economy rolling again but I also know that waitress could be asymptomatic and who knows who’s touched that shirt or candle. But, I’ve learned that that may be part of the plan: making people fearful, which leads to control.



I’ve also learned the following:

I have a sweet tooth! I’ve always been a more salty/savory girl, but boy have I developed or discovered the sweeter things in life. And my waist is showing it!


I’m a neat freak and like everything in its place and tidied up, but I’m not an “everything scrubbed clean” house mom. Even in this day and age, which somewhat surprises me.


We are the church. Church buildings have been shut but I think we can all agree that the people have proven we are the churches, not the buildings.


“Gray’s Anatomy” is amazing TV! I’ve never watched it but our daughter recently started doing so with her roomies and since she’s been here we’ve been “going to the hospital” every night and I am sold on the staff and stories of Seattle Grace Hospital. Can McDreamy be any more dreamy?!


Reading is not automatic for me just because I’m home. Yes, I’m always in the middle of a book but for some reason I haven’t read a whole lot and it shocks me. Maybe it’s all the distractions; maybe it’s just me.


I’m starting to like golf more than I thought I did. Granted, I’ve had plenty of time to do so but I think what’s really made the difference is who I’ve played with, feeling more comfortable, and letting go of expectations.


New words and phrases that will stick with us forever. I can honestly say that as recent as February I had never uttered the words “social distancing,” “flatten the curve,” “essential workers,” and “spiritual communion” and I’m guessing you hadn’t either. I’d also never heard of “drive by parties.”


New technology including Zoom and Band, which I had to quickly master and use for some virtual classroom teaching and lesson planning. Granted, I’m no software engineer as a result, but it has been fun learning new things.


I don’t love Zoom and Houseparty “happy hours” and I’m not sure why. For some reason they’re a little stressful for me. Maybe I need to add more “happy” to my happy hours!


I don’t always like what everyone else does, and that’s okay. I hated “Ozark” and I don’t really enjoy grocery delivery. The last one surprises me because I generally hate going to the grocery store. Again, maybe it’s the ole “you have to” not “you choose to” reason. Maybe it’s cuz I can tend to be a slight control freak.


Saying “I don’t know” is actually very freeing and stress-relieving thanks to writer mentor and friend Carolyn Scarborough who recently wrote about the concept of being okay with not knowing what tomorrow holds or having all the answers. Try it. It works.


TikTok is addictive and some of the songs are very catchy. No, I haven’t made any videos but I love the steps challenge, the Drake dance, and the shuffle.


How to make a face mask out of a sock!



We as a country really need to focus on manufacturing more of the products we use right here in the U.S.A. and that we as consumers need to demand this from those we buy from. It’s one thing to have Tilapia produced in China but another thing to outsource our antibiotics and medicines there. If we’ve learned anything as a society through all of this, let it be this.



Through a collective eye, we’ve all learned that nurses, doctors, truck drivers, delivery companies, pharmacists, farmers, grocery store workers, mail carriers, first responders, utility workers, and the internet are waaaaay more essential than movie stars, singers, or athletes. (But please let football start in the fall!)


Things I’ve learned about others:

There are some very creative and clever people out there (with the obvious time on their hands!) and I want to thank them for all the memes floating on social media.


Working from home now for two months, our daughter has proved she is extremely disciplined! Even though she could sleep in and laze around all day, she is instead up at 6:30 every morning exercising and then is on the phone and laptop during the day working. I’ve also learned that she is a much bigger extrovert than I ever knew.


In our extended time together I’ve also learned a lot about her personally; her joys and her struggles, her goals and her worries. It’s been rewarding to hear some of them and hard to hear others. I’m grateful however, to know that she opens up to me about both. I’ve learned to just listen.


She has also taught me that I rarely eat three meals a day as three healthy and hearty meals…often bowls… are part of her daily dose of nutrition and meal planning. Oh yes, “meal planning” and “food prep.” Two more new things I’ve learned all about!


A new pizza sauce recipe from her that is amazing: blend together butternut squash, almond milk, and parmesan cheese and top your cauliflower pizza crust with it and then any toppings you choose. Trust me: amazing!


My husband can indeed play golf every day and not get tired of it. I’ve also learned to be as grateful for a golf course as I’ve ever been. He literally only needs a golf course and a TV to be happy.


My husband has a secret crush on Laura Ingraham and Deborah Birx and is especially fond of the latter’s daily scarf selections. Truth be told he also loves Mike Lindell, his My Pillow commercials, and their jingle.


Something sad that I’ve learned is that there is still so much hate and bitterness out there and that so many remain hate-filled, partisan, and intolerant, even as they preach tolerance. You would think a national crises would lead to the putting aside of their angry hearts and unite us, but I’ve learned that is not the case. Too bad. For them. News flash haters: pandemics aren’t political.



So what have you learned during all of this? What, as Rubin asked, do you want to be accountable for? Have you found a new appreciation for someone or something? Have you discovered that maybe someone or something you thought were “essential” in your life maybe aren’t? Have you learned something new or taken up a new hobby? Have you let go or given up?


Some of us have had time to think about all of this, others have been swamped with stay-at-home work and homeschooling, have been home alone all these weeks and are lonely, and many others have been laid off and struggling to make ends meet. Through it all, have you discovered your authentic self or are you still learning and searching for meaning and direction? For me, it’s a little of both.


Whatever we’ve all learned, one thing is for sure: future generations will be learning about this COVID crisis in history classes for years to come. We can proudly say we’ve lived through history and hopefully learned from it.





A Sweet Pandemic Invention May 5, 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 7:50 pm


Has anyone invented anything like calculus all this time you’ve been bored and sheltering at home? Yeah right, right?!


And then there’s la-la land Gwenyth Paltrow who said this:



As much as I love to write, would love to learn a new language, and love the idea of making productive use out of being home all day every day, it just ain’t happening. At least not for me.


But that’s exactly what happened to Eleanor Abbott many years ago and under very similar circumstances that we all find ourselves in today. Not only did she create something new, she created the perfect something at the perfect time. And while in a hospital. During a quarantine. And it’s not medicine. Per se.



Back in the 1940s our nation suffered under a Corona virus similar plague: polio. The first major polio epidemic occurred in 1916 and reached its peak in 1952. During it, children were confined indoors and often times in a hospital. They were highly restricted and forced to spend days inside an “iron lung,” which were the cumbersome and total body entrapping ventilators of the time. Patients were offered only brief breaks to sit up and maybe play a game in their beds, making for a very scary and depressing pediatric ward.


A viral disease that affects the nervous system and causes paralysis Polio, much like COVID-19, spreads through direct contact with people carrying the infection.  Dr. Jonas Salk developed a polio vaccine in 1955 and the U.S. has been polio-free since 1979. There is no cure for polio and in the United States, children are recommended to receive a polio vaccine at two and four months old, and then twice more before entering elementary school.



In 1949 and in the midst of the crisis, young San Diego teacher Abbott, who herself was a polio ward patient, saw a need for something to give the immobilized kids a distraction and way to escape their bleak realities. What better way or place than a land made entirely of candy? Enter Candy Land, the now beloved game that’s been entertaining kids ever since.


I’m guessing all of you reading this have played Candy Land and love it as much as I do. I remember playing it when our daughter was little and just the sight of it brings me a sweet level of joy and nostalgia. Using locations called Candy Cane Forest, Gumdrop Mountain, and Peppermint Sea along with characters like Queen Frostline, Princess Lolly, and Gramma Nutt, what’s not to love?



Attractive to kids of all ages, the simple board game is won by reaching the Candy Castle by drawing color-coded cards and moving your marker. It requires no reading or counting skills and players are never asked to make any complicated decisions or choices.


Because of its simplicity, low stress level, no need for physical movement, and simple competition, it was the perfect way for quarantined kids to pass the time and have some fun. It was also inclusive of all skill levels and ages and if you look on an original Candy Land board, you’ll notice artwork of a little boy in a leg brace. Today, kids love the fact that they can play it by themselves, which given our current home-bound situation, is music to parent’s ears as we all strive to carve out alone time while also juggling many household chores and demands.



Bought by Milton Bradley as a temporary fill in for what was their main product line at the time, school supplies, Candy Land quickly became the company’s best-selling game and basically put MB on the map. In 1984 Hasbro bought Milton Bradley and today nearly 1 million Candy Land board games are sold each year. The Toy Industry Association named Candy Land the most popular U.S. toy for the 1940s and in 2005 it was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame in Rochester, NY.


I’m guessing Abbott had no idea she was designing a standard bearer that would stand the test of time, as bored kids are still being entertained by a board game. Brilliant! Still, how wonderful that a teacher who was sick herself, created a “cure” that helped sick children feel less sad and lonely and gave them a sense of freedom and fun. How wonderful too that Abbott reportedly donated the majority of her earnings to the purchase of school supplies and other equipment for schools and kids in need.


All this makes me wonder what Eleanor Abbott would think of today’s COVID-19 pandemic. Thankfully most kids are at home and not in hospitals but they might be getting just a bit bored and antsy after all these weeks without their friends and classmates. I’m sure you’ve pulled out the puzzles and card games already, but have you played Candy Land with them? Why not give it a roll and a short history lesson at the same time? Maybe, just maybe similar innovations and blessings will come out of today’s crisis that will benefit generations to come. You never know if you have another Candy Land on your hands!